I was checking out at the market. The checker was extremely efficient — bagging my items with care while ringing them up at lightning speed. We exchanged pleasantries about the sprinkling of snow covering our ground — unusual for North Carolina and sending the good citizens into apoplexy.
In line behind me were two men, mid-twenties, bragging about their “hot” girlfriends. Then they noticed the checker (around 6’2”, broad shouldered, styled hair, heavy make-up, nail polish, deep voice, short skirt, medium heels). The two men openly smirked and launched into a mocking floor show, imitating the checker’s gestures, an exaggerated burlesque. My eyes locked with the checker’s. I glanced back and the two men grinned, a clear invitation for me to join their posse.
I looked at the checker and asked quietly, “Want me to handle this?” The checker nodded, so I turned to the two men. Nobody was behind them in line, so I had all the time I needed.
They exchanged smug smiles.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. Are you concerned this person is transgender?” (For a visual — I’m 5’4”, bushy gray hair, small-boned, in my 60s, yoga pants, oversized sweatshirt. When I’m not cursing, my style of speaking is often courteous bordering on the absurd.)
The two men froze, no longer smiling.
“You’re much younger than I am, and I’m sure I can learn a lot from you about today’s world. But right here, in this moment, I know how to do this. May I show you?”
They remained frozen.
“Thanks. I’ll be very brief.” I put out my hand to each of them. “I’m Amy.” Reluctantly they shook my hand and muttered their names. (This took place pre-COVID, so we weren’t wearing masks and shaking hands was common practice.)
“Now watch. It’s easy.” I turned to the checker. “Hi. I’m Amy. My pronouns are she and her.” I nodded and the checker picked up the slack. “I’m Cory. My pronouns are she and her.” We shook hands.
Again, I turned to the two men and shrugged. “That’s how it’s done. Have a good day.”
I waited to make sure Cory was safe, but the two men paid for their items without looking at her, and practically ran out of the store.
Start to finish, the conversation took ninety seconds.
My Resolutions for the New Year:
As a cis, straight, white woman, if I have the opportunity to step in when another person is being targeted, I’ll take it. Ignoring the issue isn’t a passive act. It’s an active choice, and it’s a choice that the targeted person doesn’t have, which makes it a privilege.
If I’m dealt any form of privilege, I’ll use it with extreme care.
I’ll remain open to learning and when I make mistakes, I’ll hold myself accountable and work to do better.
Happy New Year.
(All identifying information in this essay has been changed to respect “Cory’s” privacy.)
2 responses to “Ninety Seconds”
You are the best!!!!!
Sent from my iPhone
As an ally, I’m glad I had the opportunity to step in. And let’s give credit where credit is due: In spite of being targeted, “Cory” kept a clear head and worked with me. She and I navigated that situation together.